Bit of a long read this time due to just getting decent internet after 4 weeks
Thursday 20th August 2020 Wednesday night was very windy as the hurricane came level with us. In the middle of the night we had a huge downpour of rain mixed with constant lightning and thunder. I had to get up and shut the hatches, sadly Arturo left a window open in his berth and his favourite book got soaked.
By morning the wind was strong from the east and the sea was building as we set off in an easterly direction for the safe bay of Ballandra on Isla Carmen. It was a lumpy passage that took about 3 hours, the waves were quite high, but once we were in the bay it was flat calm. The wind was still fresh and the sky had been overcast all day so the coolness was very welcome. We quickly dove into the water and checked out the anchor and were keen to see how much aquatic life there was here. Later we dinghied over to a cluster of rocks and snorkeled around, some lovely fish, but nothing new. We had plenty of bees visit us but they mostly disappeared come sunset.
Friday Up at 8 after a good sleep and Arturo tells me there’s a lot of bees outside, too many for him. I take a look and sure enough there’s hundreds of them. They have come for fresh water, I had hoped there would be rock pools of water they would prefer, but it seems we collected rain water in the folds of the mainsail and as the boat rocks, it drips down into the sail bag. The bees are sucking the water from the sail bag in small clusters along its length. Also the tarps we had folded up on deck have collected water inside and the bees have found a way in, some didn’t find the way out and died in there. We hoist the mainsail half way and shake the water out, the sun will soon dry it all.
Next up we dinghy over to a big rock outcrop about a half a mile north, the fish here are amazing, so many, a few new species we haven’t seen before, and a beautiful giant eagle ray, very blue. We need internet to find out the details of what we are seeing.
Saturday: An early departure for the 4 hour trip to the back/east side of Isla Carmen, to the old salt mines at La Salinas. We arrive at one and after a quick swim to cool down we head ashore. The mines shut down in 1982 making 120 workers redundant, the village that accommodated them, included a hospital, a general store, a school and other official buildings. It became a ghost town overnight. We talked with the village caretaker, who maintains the church and keeps an eye on the remaining buildings and equipment, even though it’s all in a very sorry state now.
We walk down the long flat track to the main salt pans, I suppose it’s wrong to call them mines, they are just huge pools where the sea water is allowed to evaporate. I think I read somewhere that the Baja Peninsula provides about 1/3 of the world’s salt. It looked like a snow covered field it was so white. Arturo, who has never seen snow was curious if that was what it looked like.
Sunday Another early departure as we want to get back to Agua Verde today, a six hour passage. We are running low on food and drinks; today we will have our third pasta and sauce meal in 5 days. The passage goes well and we sail with the morning wind for about an hour, then as the sun rises the wind drops and on with the engine. We are entertained when a stack of dolphins swim over past us with a few breaking off to frolic under the bowsprit.
I had picked a spot in the bay to avoid the swell we might get later from the north, but when we get there we realise we are right in the path of the returning panga fishing boats and will be rocked by them, assuming they don’t hit us. So we anchor in the middle of the bay and later suffer a little rolling as we prepare dinner. It must be something about the stunning vistas as you enter the bay, because for the second time in two weeks I forget to reel in the fishing line. No prob, we are old hands at this now, and within 30 minutes we have recovered the line, weights and hooks from the prop. It’s Sunday and the whole village seems to be out playing in the water at the beach. The kids are having a great time. We will stay here for Monday, re-provision and hopefully pick up another kilo of the delicious goats cheese we bought on our last visit.
I sleep until 10:30 am which is a record for me, 10 hours solid sleep, I feel great and realise later, during my Spanish lesson, that I really can learn better when well rested. I think the heat is a problem in many ways. We swim off rocks at the southern entrance to the bay but it’s a little disappointing, also we both are stung, as happened the previous night. We can’t see what’s doing the stinging, perhaps those tiny Jellyfish that are transparent. We head back to the boat for lunch then make a trip into the village. We stock up on Soda and guacamole ingredients then walk along the beach and buy 2.5kg of Parga (Snapper?) fish from a local fisherman on the beach. We trek to the end of the village to buy some more goats cheese, but the house is deserted when we arrive. We are now stocked up ready for the remainder of our trip south to La Paz.
Tuesday Depart Agua Verde for Los Gatos bay around 9:30. The swell appears to be from the South East so there’s little chance of finding calm there, but Arturo really wants to visit so we give it a try. A few hours later as we motor around the bay, it’s obvious from the boat swinging 15 degrees to port, then starboard that it’s not going to work. This is a shame, as it’s six hours to the next possible safe anchorage at San Everisto, and the wind is picking up from the south. We push on, and pass through the channel diving the main peninsula from the island at San Juan. Here we have headwinds of 20 knots ( Apparent) and a bit of a choppy sea, but the fresh wind makes up for the slow progress. Eventually we arrive in San Everisto around 7pm. It’s a lively little fishing village. They have had no Covid cases, and a few months back when the crisis started, some yachts anchored here and the fishermen told them not to venture ashore. They offered to bring supplies to the yachts if needed but didn’t want to risk exposing themselves to the virus. They had already blockaded the only road into the village. This arrangement worked well for a few weeks until some gringos decided they would go ashore anyway, this enraged the locals and a party of fishing boats motored out to the offending yacht and pelted it with stones until it left town. After that visiting boats were banned. I had heard in Loreto that everything was back to normal now and we could anchor there and even go ashore, but I was very worried as we approached and the first fishing panga screeched out of the port in our direction. However as he sped past us, we exchanged friendly waves, as we did with the next two departing pangas. All seems better now. We have another hurricane possibility, or at least we did 2 days ago when I last got a weather update, so tomorrow I will go ashore and buy an hour of internet at the tienda and get some updates. We are now only a days motor away from La Paz, but we have a bit of a blow due on Friday, so we may sit it out here, or hereabouts until that passes. Other items of note, The fridge is frosting up at a rapid pace these days, I suspect a leak in the seals, but yesterday we had to defrost just so we could close the lids, in the process of moving the lids around I dropped one onto my lovely handmade Mexican dinner plate, it shattered and I’m gutted. Around the same time Arturo pointed out that the reserve cafetière had a crack in the glass, I had found if I make enough coffee for two cups, by the time it has brewed I have just over half a cup left in it, that will have to do until I can get to a supermarket. We had the Parga for dinner and it was delicious, sitting in the cockpit under the stars, a light cooling breeze and with Philip glass as our musical accompaniment, pretty chilled.
Wednesday We leave Evaristo to visit the shallow mangrove bordered lagoon at Amortajada about 7 miles away over on Isla San Jose. Once there we anchor in the spot the guide said to avoid due to ‘no see ums’ A term I hate, but it describes the bug well, very small bitey things that can invade the boat, somehow finding their way through the mosquito screens.
We are lucky that the entrance to the lagoon, which is via a small river about 40ft wider, and has a sand bar on it, has enough water for us to motor over in the dinghy. The mangrove lined river is lovely and takes us through a mile of mangroves backed by a huge field of catus into the main lagoon.
We snorkel and although it’s very pretty, there aren’t many fish around. We decode to spend the night at anchor here rather than head back to everisto. There might be an easterly wind later and we are better protected here. Around midnight, we are both going crazy with the bug bites, we’re both covered in bites that sting like crazy, neither of us get much sleep.
Thursday We leave the mangroves early and scoot back to Evaristo to escape the bugs. I heard on the SSB that another hurricane is brewing and there’s a tropical depression due any day so I want to get some wifi and make plans. We anchor as far south in the bay as possible due to forecast southerlies, and an hour after anchoring a couple arrive on a big Dufour 55 sailboat, The lady is from Halifax UK, so we have a bit of a chat on CH17 VHF later we talk to them from the dinghy, it’s a big bay but for some reason they have anchored just one boats lengths away. Arturo and I dinghy out to a rocky outcrop about a mile away and snorkel for about an hour.
Friday It seems the bugs have taken a liking to me, I hardly get any sleep due to bites and itchiness, We leave at 7:30 for Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida. This is just a daysail north from La Paz, so we are almost home. Again we don’t know if we are allowed to anchor in the bay, we had heard the harbour master is allowing boats to travel to the islands for recreation, but the island police (Park guards) are banning visiting boats. I’m apprehensive as we are the only boat around, but by 9pm, there are 3 other sailboats, a giant party catamaran and a flash partying motor launch. I guess visits are allowed. We swim over to the rocky coast and see some lovely big fish swimming in the healthiest coral I have seen all month.
Saturday Our last day at sea for a while, we finish off the last bananas. weigh anchor and head south for La Paz, It’s about a 5 hour passage and we are not really sure if we can get fuel from Marina Baja, or if my berth is free, a large pod of dolphins join us , presumably to welcome us back. The tropical cormorants and pelicans put on a great show for us dive bombing the fish. We watch one surface with a substantial size fish between its beak and another cormorant decides his need for fish is greater, they battle in the sky until the fish falls back to the sea, whereupon a pelican who had been taking a keen interest, dives and recovers the fish and swallows it whole. If ever there was a need for teamwork training… Just as we get close enough to reach the fuel dock on the vhf, the operator tells us the fuel dock has just closed, we head there anyway and a man comes and offers to fuel us up. It turns out he’s the security guard and often fills boats up to break the boredom of his job, of course he can’t give us a receipt or any change and it has to be cash. I’m wondering if he even works at the marina. On to our marina and I can’t raise them on VHF or on the phone, I think they shut at 12 on Saturdays, luckily I have the managers cell phone number and he assigns me a nice 50ft berth for the price of my usual 45ft. It takes a few hours to hose the boat down, connect up the power, and get the canopy up, but by 8pm we are done and Arturo offers to buy me dinner. After dinner he chucks his stuff in an Uber and heads off to his accommodation and I go back to turning my sailing vessel back into a static caravan.
Sunday 30th August Bliss; aircon, electricity, fresh bread from Chedraui. It’s nice to be back and tied up, however I’m probably going to want to be back out soon enough. Kathy arrives in 3 weeks time so I expect we will head off after a couple of weeks of her getting acclimatised.
Wednesday 12th August 2020 Being enclosed in a natural lagoon, the water here is very hot, and in general the days are scorching and the nights unbearable. We both are sleeping either on the foredeck or in the cockpit. Often there is no wind at all and that’s when you really feel the heat. The marina has a lounge called ‘the Captains Lounge’ which has a kitchen , TV WiFi and most importantly Air conditioning. We spend a lot of time there, but also have been swimming in the bay. The plan is to leave here on Tuesday 19th and make a long roundabout route back to La Paz taking in various remote island anchorages.
I managed to upload the video below, it’s not great, and we will make much better ones, once we work out how to collect and edit the existing footage we have.
Thursday 13th I pop over to Mikes boat Ikigai, to help him rewire some appliances he has fitted, mostly 12v fans and LED lighting. He has been stuck/based here since the start of the Covid thing and has really gone native, he knows everyone and all the best spots around. He tells us about a great beach getaway hidden within the lagoon behind the mangroves which we visit later for a cooling swim, he points out another similar spot he recommends for beach barbeques. Later Mike drives us into Loreto to the supermarket so we can restock. We actually ate all the bananas just in time.
Friday 14th Back to the marina to do some laundry get a shower and for Arturo to collect his correspondence maths course. Later in the afternoon I head over to Mikes boat to help him fit a fuse on his new super hi tech fan. come 6pm we have dinner at the marina with Mike and our two new friends Kyle & Jamie who are also stuck here with the Covid restrictions. They have done a lot of sailing and Jamie has sailed around france as well and speaks a few languages so she and Arturo hit it off.
Saturday: We visit the marina for some good internet and so I can order a few bits and bobs from Amazon for Kathy to bring out. I manage to buy a 3 pack of 32gb memory sticks for under £10, I also order a couple of 2 Terabyte external hard disks for around £50 each. All useful for the mass of video footage we are accumulating. Arturo has now realised that he does not need to film in 4K at 120fps, We are having to remove his video clips from the GoPro to the laptop one or two at a time, review, delete or transfer to an external drive as I only have a few gb free, and he has maybe one hundred clips weighing in at > 2gb each. This will take some time.
Sunday 16th A fairly early start for me, we leave the boat around 9:30 and head into the marina to meet up with Mike who is going to drive us into the Sierra de la Giganta mountains. It’s a dramatic drive through 10 miles of winding steep mountain roads. We snake back and forth eventually reaching the small village of San Javier where the first (ish) mission in California (at a time when Upper California was united with this Lower California). Spanish Jesuit priests came here at the end of the 18th Century in order to bring god to the indigenous people, it’s only an accident that they brought troops with them and set up armed trading posts along the whole of the Californian coast, and later claimed the land as belonging to the Spanish king. The mission failed due to a lack of drinking water in the mountains, but was restarted a few years into the 19th century just a couple of miles down the road near a natural spring. From this mission a network of roads stretch out over the peninsula leading to the other missions which followed, and I think they stretched as far as Monterrey in the northern part of California. We follow the irrigation channels back into the fields behind the church and find some locals selling wine, I had hoped to get some locally made olive oil, the place is full of olive trees, and has one over 300 years old, which seems to contradict the official dates. They say the mission here planted the first grape vines in the whole of California, and produced the first Californian wines. The locals are disappointed to find we are all non drinkers, so I buy a bottle for Kathy to enjoy at a later date and Mike enquires about bringing his tent up here to camp. We are surrounded by quite stunning mountains and Arturo has never seen a Mexico like it before. The way he describes his home town has me thinking ‘Birkenhead in the 70s’, i.e. a bit industrial and boring. I buy some pineapple Empanadas (Pasties) from a local for a few pesos and we settle into a small cafe for some lunch. Tomorrow we stock up on food and on Tuesday we head out back into the sea. There is a potential hurricane heading our way, but then there has been most days these last few weeks. Most fizzle out, or hang a left into the pacific heading for Hawaii. We also have some strong southerly winds forecast, but there are many safe islands out here which provide good protection. It’s likely we will spend another week in the area before heading back to La Paz.
Monday 17th Heading ashore to have a farewell dinner with Mike, I’m hoping we will catch up with him again in October when I sail back this way with Kathy. I will also post this blog from the restaurant. Earlier today I spent an hour trying to work out the earthing on Mike’s boat. He got a shore power shock from his propellor on the hard a few days ago. I don’t figure much out, other than the fact that his earth from the shore is not grounded to the boats 12V DC common earth, It doesn’t look like the manufacturer planned it to be, but as usual on Mike’s boat I can’t find the cables that run to the switchboard from the power inlet. It’s going to need some more attention. Mike runs me into town and he drops me off at a barber, I didn’t ask him too, but I quietly take the hint. The barber tells me I can’t catch Covid in his shop, which makes me smile. Later we head for the super, but there’s a big queue outside so we drive on to a big store of the pile em high variety. I get most everything. We are leaving in the morning (Tuesday) and will sail around the islands, others out there are sailing here for fear of the hurricane, but I think they are being a bit to cautious. Genevieve is heading our way and currently is strengthening with winds of 85 knots, and is meant to become a major hurricane by Wednesday. Hopefully it will stay out in the pacific and just bring refreshing wind and rain for us. Wherever I go I will only be a half days motoring from Escondido and safety.
I tried to upload the pics and place them in the text, but I had annoying WordPress problems, In the end I did it but have had to dump them all together. Hopefully see you after the next hurricane 😉
Yesterday we finished our provisioning and stowing and this morning we prepared to leave, the breeze kept us cool and I called ahead to the Marina at Costa Baja, about an hour away to confirm we could get fuel. Sometimes they have a mega yacht visit for fuel and it can take all morning to refill, costing a small fortune I expect. We were lucky, partly because of Covid, there are few mega yachts doing much movement these days. As well as Carlos Slim, the richest man in Mexico, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and other internet titans keep a mega yacht or two in the region, just in case they get a free weekend and fancy a bit of a break. I’m sure we can all relate to that. Obama likes to holiday here on other peoples boats I have heard.
I showed Arturo how we pull the anchor up, and explain how he needs to jump ashore at the fuel dock with the midships line. I go to some lengths to explain the dangers inherent in both operation, I point out the windlass could sever a finger, maybe even a hand or foot if it was trapped, and how he mustn’t think that youth will stop his skull from being crushed between the dock and Sister Midnight should he try to jump too ambitiously and fail. Not to mention what a dock wall of barnacles does to a body as it is dragged along it. He survived my lesson, but may have nightmares! So anchor up and off to the fuel dock. Arturo steered for most of the way and seemed to have no problem, there was only a small space on the fuel pontoon, and I thought we would wait until the speedboat refueling had left, but the maranino waved to us to come into the gap, of course when I reached it it was probably big enough for two Sister Midnights, just it never looks easy from an approach. I looped around to get as fine an angle as possible and we glided in, Arturo passed the bowline ashore, jumped ashore, tied up the midships line and took my stern line and cleated me off. First class, I think he missed his calling. Of course Arturo has me talk in Spanish to the guys fuelling the boat, and encourages them to ask me questions in Spanish, The fuel guys looks at me, right between the eyes and hits me with some fast speaking lingo, I look at Arturo in horror, Don’t do this; Arturo stares me out, “You can do this Paul, listen to what he said” I think, ‘dondeestassomethingy’ Ah where are you going! No problem, I strike back with “Voy a Puerto Escondido” (I’m off to port Escondido), he grunts in recognition and gets back to filling the tank, kind of pleasing and disappointing all in one hit. Once fuelled up, and while Arturo is busy doing something with his phone, I untie, push the boat off and jump ashore to take us out. As we motor away he looks up all surprised we have left. I smugly say, yeah no big deal. You have to keep crew in their place after all 😉 .
We head north from the fuel dock leaving La Paz bay behind us, we pass the ugly Pemex fuel facility (refinery/storage depot ?) and we were going to spend the night at Bahia Falso just a few miles away, but as the weather is so fine, and it’s still early I decide to push on and head for the main island of Espíritu Santo, (Saint Spirit), there’s a story to the name from the conquistador days, but I won’t repeat it here. The problem being that after Falso, there is no cellular connection for the rest of our passage, so I show Arturo the autohelm, we put it into service and I start to ping out messages to people saying, “I won’t be online for a while, don’t call the coastguard”. Next we clear out with the La Paz port captain, he rarely replies to me and I have a theory the he knows I’m English and doesn’t want the hassle of trying to get all my details off me in a language he doesn’t really speak. Of course some of the captains are better than others at English. I suspect some juniors don’t speak it at all. This time with Arturo as backup, and a whiteboard full of possible conversation topics I might get into, I call up the capitañia on ch16 with my best Mexican accent, which Arturo says is more Puerto Rican than anything else; I suspect that may be a subtle insult. Like when we say to people impersonating, say, John Lennon, “I didn’t know the Beatles came from Birmingham”. The coastguard returns speaking very good English, but I continue in Español, ‘Dos personas a bordo’ etc etc. I tell him we are just leaving La Paz and we are going to Puerto Escondido, and he seems very happy, I’m very happy, everything worked out well, I wish him happiness, a long and prosperous life, and he wishes me a great time enjoying La Paz. Arturo is in with the old “FAIL” and I have to try again, to explain we are leaving, not arriving in La Paz, all is good in the end, but I think he was happier we were arriving not leaving. I have to do the reverse when we reach our destination. I will practice more.
A few hours later and we drop the hook in Ensenada Candelera, I think named so because a candlero is a thing that takes a load of candles, like a chandelier, or prayer thingy in church. There are three islands within the cove (Ensenada) which all look a bit like candles, the rock sides looking like dripping wax. We have the place to ourselves and it’s just stunning. Later in the evening as the full moon rises over the mountain into a perfectly clear star laden sky, I explain to Arturo how this might just be a valid time to use the adjective ‘Awesome’ and how it should never be used to describe a hamburger or beer. There are many gringos in the Marina that I wish understood this too. We dinghy over to the bigger rock and swim around it with our snorkels, just amazing, I had wondered what the effect of Covid might be, very few humans have been allowed to visit this area since March and I wonder if the fish realised this. It certainly seems like there are more fish, more varieties, and a lot more coral looking healthy. However I don’t think 5 months could have that much affect, who knows, but later we visit the beach and have a stroll, and there is much more life here than before. There are mountain goats and their kids everywhere, Arturo calls me for help when a male deer/stag stares him out and he thinks he might charge, I’m not quite sure of my ground, but I tell Arturo that stags never charge and he doesn’t need to fear them. I’m underwater anyway, absolutely gobsmacked (in awe) of the fish in the shallows off the beach. I have never ever seem so many fish in one place, they swim in perfect coordination, and from a few meters away, make the shape of a giant fish, maybe 20 metres long. I try to count them, the fish aren’t big, maybe 6 inches long, silver mostly. In front of me I work out a square of 10 x 10 fish, i.e. 100, and it takes up a small space in the overall school, I guess from that there are at least 10,000 fish swimming in front and around me. The coordination is stunning. I swim with them for about an hour. Arturo is following a goat up the side of the mountain at this point. The fish are quite fascinating, they react to every movement I make, but some more than others, I float amongst them trying to figure out which movements scare them most, and I find my arms and legs are best kept still, making a noise and spurt of water when I clear my snorkel doesn’t bother them at all. Many other fish pass by and there’s no shortage of turtles and those very long snake like fish here. Fish soup for dinner, and I now know how to heat tortilla the Mexican way, which basicaly is throwing them on a hot flame until they nearly catch fire. I will stick with my omellete pan method.
Tue 4th A lazy start, but after some breakfast a swim is required, it’s so hot. Today is going to be crazy. We dinghy over to the big rock again, we are at slack water so there is little current, yesterday Arturo struggled to circumnavigate the rock without any fins the current was so strong. Again it’s amazing, more fish than yesterday, some fish I have never seen before, a big ray fish, but almost translucent in colour. What looks like a fog, or cloud of darker water turns out to be zillions of small creatures, it reminds me of frogspawn, but the individual elements are distinct when you get very close. A couple of other day tripped boats arrive with illegal tourists, I hear a lot of ‘Awesome’s’ being shouted out as a gang of them swim around the rock, and as I row the dinghy around the rock later I’m buzzed by a drone. It’s a shame I can’t be the only tourist, mustn’t grumble. I expect they will all be gone before nightfall. Back at the boat we are moving into a more Mexican routine. Arturo is cooking up some special garlic shrimp meal, it’s going to be delicious, I had to hand over some of Kathy’s vino blanco. We will have a big lunch and a light dinner from now on.
Wed 5th I just have two bananas for breakfast, Arturo has two bananas and a couple of fried eggs and some tortilla. I’m doubling up on the bananas as when shopping we didn’t coordinate well and ended up with about 40.
Did I mention that every day has been scorching hot, and today is no different. Yesterday for some reason, I assumed that having been in Mexico for so long the sun had lost its power to harm me, well of course I’m paying for that idiocy now. I did the classic swimming for hours in the cool water while toasting my shoulders and the top of my back, so after breakfast I have a swim for some relief. We weigh anchor late morning and head to the bay that separates this island from Isla Partida, It’s a picturesque spot, with a lot of fish and wildlife. There are lots of goats bleating from the hillside. We aren’t there long when a Park Official arrives in his panga and tells us the Islands are closed for us because of Covid and we have to leave. Arturo compliments him on his English, in Spanish and they chat, then he talks to me in English and I try my best to reply in Spanish. We both appreciate the language practice and at the end he says we can stay for just one night but we must not return. It seems we were lucky to get away with the last two days in Ensenada Candelara, however I don’t feel like we can take the dinghy ashore because the park ranger is sitting in his hut chilling, and stays there for the rest of the day. Instead we tidy up the boat and prepare for our next journey of 25 miles, which is the longest so far. We get the Genoa out from under the cabin table, where it has sat since Thailand. I remember it was a big sail and in good condition, but I can’t remember much else about it. We start to bend it on to the furler, (I’m not sure technically if you can bend a sail onto a furler) just as the calm gives way to a building wind. We leave the sail draped along the deck and wait for a lull in the wind which doesn’t come for a few hours. In the meantime we have a swim, we keep seeing a pod of manta rays swimming around the boat, but fail to get any pictures. Later we have fun when Arturo tries to get his voice activation working on his GoPro, he shouting at it, “Go Pro, Turn off” over and over in his best English, but his Mexican accent is defeating the Go Pro and it steadfastly refuses to respond, I shout in my my best Queens English from the far end of the boat “Turn Off Go Pro” and Arturo shrieks as his camera shuts down. It works every time for me and I spend ages coaching Arturo in Queens English, to no avail. I try the command in Scouse “Go Pro Turn off Like”, but I guess Liverpool may not have been their target market. I make a fish salad for Arturo, He says he loves it, he has never had one before.
Thursday 6th We leave early after a quick swim and head for Isla San Francisco, a lovely Island I have been to twice before. We get the Genoa (head sail) and mainsail up and are making a good 5 knots for the first 2 hours. This is my first sailing for many months and it feels great, the boat is a long way from being ocean ready, with sail bags and tarps stacked up on the coachroof, but for these short passages everything is working well. The Genoa looks great, and will stay on the boat now for the rest of this season. Just before reaching the bay we are joined by a small pod of dolphins. On my previous visits to this stunning bay their have usually been a few yachts and the odd motor boat, however this time my heart sinks lower and lower as we approach and the full bay opens up to my view. It appears Disneyland have a new branch. The place is rammed with boats, gin palaces, catamarans, a few expensive 50ft yachts and as we approach I see jet skies racing back and forth, maybe 4 of them, a speedboat towing a water skier, and to top it all off, an inflatable playground with slides. Some boats are swinging at anchor, others have taken stern anchors towards the shorn so they won’t swing, one has taken up the space four yachts could fit in. I find a space but it’s not where I want and we may be subjected to some swell tonight. I update the log book with the arrival details and then jump into the water for some welcome relief. Arturo is not long behind me and after a few minutes he is screaming at me to come and see, I swim over not sure what could be so exciting, but he is right, one of the most amazing sites is just below the boat. I think they are young tuna, maybe 9 inches long, and packed together in a tight ball moving along slowly. I don’t know how many, but certainly tens of thousands, they are the size of a couple of houses and around the outside are some huge fish, maybe 3 foot long, At first I think the big fish are rounding the smaller ones up into a ball, the way sharks do with tuna before an attack, but later I think perhaps the larger fish are keeping guard on them. Either way it truly is awesome. I’m able to glide into the pod, if that’s the right word, and find myself in quite a surreal world where there are thousands of tightly packed fish in every direction as far as the eye can see. I’m hoping Arturo gets some video of this. This was a time to use the word awesome in my mind. Back on board I notice more gin palaces arriving, along with two cats from Dream Yacht Charter, an international version of SunSail. The flotilla leader drops his hook quite close to me, and I’m put off right away by the amount of auxiliary watercraft they are towing or have on deck. The second cat doesn’t even anchor but rafts up to them, now they are going to be very close if I swing around there way. But not to worry about them, my attention is taken by one of the gin palaces directly astern of me that has decided to entertain everyone in the sea of Cortez with some very poor Mexican rap music. It’s really loud and horrible. The speakers are distorting badly. I’m starting to feel the steam rising and I’m wondering how long before somebody tells them to shut up. They don’t and I have to wait until; 9pm before they turn it down, but not before the gin palace on the other side of me has also up with traditional Mexican ballads at an excruciating volume. It’s quite once the dark descends, but now all the big boats have turned their underwater lights on and I feel like in in Blackpool at midnight on a Saturday. We will leave in the morning!
Friday Up early and we depart by 8. It looks like the massive motor launch in front is sitting above our anchor and as I’m below flaking as Arturo is pulling the anchor chain in, I’m not sure how this will turn out. It turns out that we get within a boats length of their car park for jet skies and various toys. We motor out passing a small cruise ship called ‘Valentines’ that must have arrived in the night, how nice. Our choice is to go to Evaristo, 2 hours away, but that seems too easy and they don’t let you ashore there. So we head for El Gato, some 5 hours away, the wind is good and we are soon sailing along on a most pleasant cool wind. This passageway between the Baja Peninsula and the large island of San Jose is about 4 miles wide and 15 miles long and is a main migratory route for whales, sadly this is the wrong time of year, but we do have some dolphins and sea lions for entertainment. We get to El Gato around 2PM, the wind has dropped but instead of the South East to South wind we usually get the wind was from the East and El Gato bay was deserted and was going to be way to Rolly for us to stop. It’s a shame as this bay is stunning with its giant red rocks along the northern shore, and lively reefs. We motor around the reefs and Arturo takes lots of pictures. At some point on this trip he thanks me for showing him Mexico, a nice compliment, coming from a Mexican. There’s an anchorage just an hour further north and we head there, the pilot says it is well sheltered from Southerlies and looks good for Easterlies as well. It’s deserted and looks a bit rolly so we drift around for a few minutes before deciding to head north to Agua Verde, another 3 hours or so. We had dropped the main down and as we enter back into the sea, the swell is strong on on the side so we start rolling. At some point we hit just the right frequency for the boat to start really getting into the old rock and roll and there’s a huge amount of crashing below. Arturo had devised a way of stowing things, and I didn’t want to undermine him, but perhaps I should have as his favourite Maté cup he drinks his Guatemalan tea from had shattered, it’s quite a complicated device with a steel straw and combined filter. We also lost a lovely glass beaker from the Sointula co-op. Arturo managed to catch and save a bottle of spirits as they flew through air. We motored offshore a bit, raised the main and proceeded to Agua Verde. There is a village here with a couple of shops, but I was worried they might not let us anchor here. Arturo is stunned by the mountains in the background as we approach, it is quite a stunning setting, there’s a slight mist in the air making everything seem very magical. He points out that there are two jet skies racing around the bay, so I’m pleased it’s open to visitors, but hoping it won’t be like yesterday. It turns out that there is one big motor launch and two sailboats, they are tucked into a cove within the bay, and we opt for the main beach which we have to ourselves. After setting the anchor I remember that I forgot to bring in the fishing line. I am definitely out of practice. I pulled the line in but it was snapped off, I dive and fortunately all is not lost, the propeller managed to save the line for me and the lead weight and maybe 50ft are safely wrapped around the propellor and prop shaft. Memories of Malaysia and Jelly fish flood back! Arturo loves to free dive so between us we should be able to recover all tomorrow..
Arturo cleans up the bottom of the fridge after discovering we have 8 cans of fizzy grapefruit juice and no chilled water or lemonade left. On doing this he finds a bag of 6 day old fish, behind the beers. He is sure they will be ok and sets about cooking them up, They look like giant worms or slugs and a little apprehensively I ask, ‘Qué tipo pescado Arturo’ to which he replies, I think they are stomachs. Apparently he loves them, possibly his favourite dish. I don’t want to seem squeamish and tuck in. They’re not great, they taste like kidneys, but wrapped in a hot tortilla with a fresh salsa and guacamole they fill me up. I’m a little concerned as we approach what I’m thinking of as ‘Covid Day’. Tomorrow morning Arturo and I will have been living closely together for 7 full days and I think if one of us was going to infect the other, one of us would have some symptoms by now. I’m hoping that we don’t get food poisoning and get confused, as so far we only have coughs and a slight fever,… just kidding.
Saturday 8th Augosto. Day 8 and still no Covid on board the good ship Sister Midnight. We have a leisurely start to the day, and have a big breakfast. A local fishing boat passes us and offers to sell us some lobster tails he has just caught. He has them at 100 peso each, £4 which seems. Lot, they are not that big, but he tells us he will get a good price for them, so we tell him we only have $200 peso budget for dinner and he offers to sell us three. The last time I had lobster was with Max and the boys in The British Virgin Islands, many years ago and it was tough and horrible.
After breakfast we set about diving on the prop. Arturo has a sharp knife and I have a long saw. We take turns diving and cutting and I manage to extract the lead weight intact. There is about 10 metres of nylon line wrapped around the prop and inside the prop shaft/cutless bearing. We are keen to recover all of the line and not create any pollution. It takes nearly an hour but we get it done. I should have donned my diving kit, but I’m not quite ready for that adventure yet. Arturo has his advanced open water certificate, but hasn’t dived in a while. Just after we have finished, my saw detaches itself from the rope holding it to my shorts and sinks 6 meters to the bottom. Arturo free dives down and recovers it. I videoed his dive and hope to upload it here. There are very large Ray fish underneath us as we work and I’m thinking the day has already been amazing, no need for any more excitement. The fishermen had told us we are allowed ashore with masks on, so after a break we dinghy over to the beach and walk into the village. It’s lovely and in the Tienda (Shop) we stock up on Garlic/bananas/Avocados and a few other items. I also purchase an hour of internet time and whack out a few ‘don’t panic, I’m still alive and eating lobster’ messages to friends and family. I download the weather and although there is a small chance of a hurricane forming in 48 hours it looks very unlikely to head this way and for the next week the weather is very benign. Scores of goats pass us onto the dirt tracks as we walk through this tiny village to the far tienda, There we buy some tortilla cooked by the owner and her mother. I thought the lady was a bit offhand with us, but Arturo explained that she was very shy. It’s a tiny community here quite cut off from the rest of the world. In fact one villager asked if we could take him to the hospital in La Paz for his check up. The lady in the shop spoke to Arturo and he translated for me, she said it was an honour for her to welcome us into her small shop, I had Arturo explain to her I felt privileged to be here in their beautiful village. It’s these little exchanges which make all the difference, and hopefully one day I might be able to do this without a translator. We had heard we could buy goats cheese here and were directed to a house ten minutes walk out of the village. We found a man snoozing in a hammock who had a bountiful supply of goats cheese he had made himself from the village goats, this was too much of an opportunity to miss so we bought a kilo for $70 peso, (£2.50), we tipped him 50% and he seemed very confused, Arturo probably said something like ‘don’t worry. This crazy Englishman has no idea about money’ He seemed happier and we left with enough cheese to last a few weeks. Back at the beach the whole village seemed to be in the sea having fun, so we climbed in the dinghy and headed back to the mothership. As soon as we unpacked it was straight into the sea to cool. I served up the lobster with some rice and vegetables, I cooked it in the oven basted in garlic butter, it was quite tasty, but not worth the cost or the reputation in my estimation.
We watched the space station pass quite low on the horizon, watched the fish sparkle in the luminous sea, and I was ‘drilled’ on several new Spanish phrases.
Not a bad day. I need tomorrow to recover.
Sunday 9th Agosto. Arturo has 3 fried eggs and a packet of beans on tortillas with manchego slices and salsa for breakfast. I have the last banana. Once his stomach is settled we dinghy off to a little cove on the far side of the bay, there’s a bit of a chop in the sea today, the wind has picked up and we keep taking big splashes over the bow of the dinghy. Once in the cove there is nowhere obvious to dump the dinghy as the shoreline is covered in nasty looking rocks. We motor up and down and eventually find a gravelly spot. Arturo is keen to try the spare fins I have and the diving belt, soon he is swimming down several meters and filming skates and rays on the sea bed. It’s a magical place and perhaps because of its remoteness, the tropical fish aren’t scared and approach me face to face quite often. It’s so weird, the younger tiger fish are very curious, often the older fish give you a sideways glance as they swim past with a , ‘oh it’s you lot again’ kind of look. Over the last week I have seen so many species of marine life including rays, turtles, crabs and starfish. We swim around a large outcrop of rock and then through a cutting in the reef towards the shore. The light is perfect, it’s like swimming through a fairy tale grotto. We head back to Sister Midnight for a rest and some lunch, then we dive to retrieve the fishing hook the prop had removed from the line. Arturo had seen in yesterday under the hull when we were removing the line. However the tide had swung the boat 70 metres in the other direction and we couldn’t find it this time. We thought we saw it at one point and Arturo free dived down some 5-6 metres only to find the shiny shell of the lobster tail we had thrown overboard last night. It freaked him out a bit and he shot back to the surface very quickly. We then motored over to the reef not far from us and spent a few hours swimming with the fish again.
Monday 10th Another glorious day, but I hear on the Chubasco SSB net that a hurricane is forming to the south of us and is predicted to strengthen to a cat 2 or 3 and head directly to us. This is going to take several days and tomorrow we will be moored in Puerto Escondido, reportedly one of the safest hurricane holes here. We have breakfast and dinghy off to another distant reef and spend a few hours snorkelling with the fish. We are below the headland of the southern entrance to Agua Verde, and the headland has crumbled into the sea making for a dangerous reef that extends 100 metres or more into the sea, often just a few feet below the surface. Again the dive is stunning and the little blue fish are glowing so brightly, its like they have built in LEDs.
Later in the day huge cumulus clouds arrived and a few mini squalls passed through the bay. I took this as my cue to prepare for departure, so we loaded the dinghy onto the foredeck and made the boat ship shape, ready for an early departure in the morning when we head to the Marina at Puerto Escondido, or to make a dash for cover later should the weather turn bad here. We are very exposed to the east in the bay. Every day a huge motor yacht or two arrives and a canopy is setup on the beach by the yachts crew, so the guests can sun themselves and order more Campari over ch16 from their mothership. I find it very funny, the younger adults usually spend an hour or so screaming around the bay in a Jet Ski, I really can’t see the point. I have never seen any of them put a snorkel mask on yet, the underwater world here is by far the most interesting thing. At least they are quiet once the sun goes down and we are left to enjoy a stunning sky full of stars, every night the Milky Way has stood out very brightly, and I have been able to show Arturo how to find the North Star, Polaris, using Ursa Minor. I pointed out Ursa Major last night, as apparently he is guardian of that constellation. I didn’t ask fore details.
Tuesday 11th We weigh anchor late in the morning and catch the end of the dying morning winds to sail for a few hours towards Puerto Escondido. This is a fairly modern marina inside a natural lagoon protected by Mountains and hills for 360 degrees around, except for a narrow channel in, just wide enough for a couple of boats to pass side by side. It’s hot here, and the water is not cooling at all. We pick up a mooring buoy, it will cost us about £70 for a week here, but we get all the marina facilities included, including showers, wifi, laundry etc. The marina has a decent mini supermarket and a great restaurant. Later that night I have Pizza and Arturo goes for a classic mexican fish dish called Chipotle. On the dinghy ride back to the boat we are amazed as the water is alive with needle fish, about 6 inches long, diving out of the water in every direction. It’s a ten minute ride to the boat and they are flying through the air all around us. Eventually one lands in the dinghy and arturo has to rescue it and returns it to the sea.
I tried to upload a video, but so far the internet connection here is not up for it. I will try to get it ready for my next post.
Monday 27th July. After Spanish class I headed of to Soriano and Office Depot for some bits. I manage to use some Spanish to good effect, on the way back I found a route along the beach, past some of the spots I spied from the kayak the night before.
On the way back I managed to get a puncture. So I brought the bike down to the dock and put a patch on the inner tube.
I met a sailor in Malaysia who said I shouldn’t be doing that and I should just change the whole inner tube. I remember the shock at such a thought. What extravagance. Repairing punctures was something I learnt to do at a very early age, possibly aged 7 or younger. Bicycles where a big part of my childhood, I remember being scalded by my mum for bending the best forks I used to prise the tyre off the wheel. We actually had a few older forks and spoons which were in the cutlery draw, but were designated as OK to use on the bikes.
I wish the baba was in the picture below, then I would have: The boat to cross the ocean, the dinghy to take the bike ashore and the bike to get to the shops.
Tuesday: A grueling Spanish lesson, but I can easily count to a trillion now if pushed. The puncture repair held and after shopping and homework, I spent a few hours trying to find a decent flight for Kathy to come out on. Definitely a case of two many options, and the multitude of search engine offerings only makes things worse.
Wednesday: Today was fuel bug day. Here’s the thing with the diesel bug. Fungi or bacteria can live in diesel fuel, where the fuel meets the air, i.e. on the surface, air water and fuel provide everything needed for the microbes to flourish. It’s worse in hotter climates. On Lady Stardust they grew to such an extent that the bottom few inches of the tank contained a thick sludge made up bacteria and I had to dispose of 100 litres of fuel and spend a day in Cadiz wiping clean the inside of the fuel tanks. Modern diesel can be worse because it may contain high levels of organic bio fuel components, made from vegetables and organic things. The fuel tanks are only half full and have been that way since February, so I won’t be at all surprised if I may have a problem waiting. I usually put a biocide in the tank on every refill, but I forgot this year. The problem often is only detected when the boat is bouncing around and the microbes are getting mixed into the fuel going to the engine and they clog up the filters causing the engine to stop due to a lack of fuel. This will probably be in the middle of the night when I’m trying to reset a dragging anchor in a big blow! So first off I got the plans for the fuel tanks out, they were manufactured 15 years ago and I couldn’t find an inspection hatch. I was hoping it might be under the part of the cabin sole (floorboards) that is screwed down. I was very dismayed to see on the plans and order form for the tanks it states ‘No Inspection ports required‘. Why would you do that! If I need to clean the tanks out it’s going to be a nightmare! Next step is to put a plan B together. There are two filters in the fuel line to stop contaminants reaching the fuel pump and injectors, checking my stores, I have one spare of each. So tomorrow I will head of to buy a stack of spares. I have never clogged a filter before, and in fact I think the engine main fuel filter might be a couple of years old now. But I have heard with the bug, the filters clog up almost as quickly as you change them. So I’m going to build a reserve tank I can plumb in, in an emergency. This will be something like a sturdy 20 ltr Jug I can fit an outlet with a tap on at the bottom. Then I plan to whip off the hose from the existing primary filter and run it to this new tank I can secure above the engine and fill from the jerry cans on the deck, which look clean to me. By the time we get to Puerto Escondido, I should have used most of the fuel in the tank, and a refill with fresh fuel and some biocide should solve the problem. I had the engine covers off to check the filter part numbers, so ran her up for a bit. She started the instant the starter motor engaged, which is always a great feeling. Although when I put the glow plug preheaters on, the power to the engine control panel dropped to a couple of volts. There’s a bad connection there, It won’t be long before that stops the controls working. At least I can work around that if needed quite easily. Looking under the engine, there was a little bit of oil in the tray again, also it’s down a smidgen on the dipstick, so that pretty much proves the leak is just dripping out somewhere, I was sure it was the suction drain hose connection at the sump, but now I think it might be the sump gasket. Either way it’s no big deal. The engine ran well and the bow thruster worked after a couple of goes. I had a good bit of reverse thrust so it’s not as fouled as I thought, but I have a diver coming to scrub the hull on Friday. Since we fixed the injector in Japan, and the water pump in Canada, the engine has performed well.
Thursday: Off early to find some filters and after cycling around 6 different ‘Motor Factors’ I accumulated an extra 4 coarse and 4 fine filters, a pretend tank and some diesel hose. All for about £40 which I’m very pleased with.
I just need to find a way to attach the hose to the tank (tanque en Español). I think the shopkeepers were amused that I made them repeat the cost in Spanish to make sure I understood. I wasn’t going to waste the many hours of counting lessons I had endured this week..
Friday: I woke up in the middle of the night (well 6AM) after a bad dream and noticed a message from Kathy, it was a message from the travel agent saying there was a payment problem on the flight I had just booked her from Manchester to Mexico. It also said the booking would be cancelled if I didn’t resolve it before 8PM, but was that yesterday/tomorrow, and in what time zone? I couldn’t get back to sleep after that, and I ended up phoning the call centre and doing the usual thing of hanging around for ages as the queue was extra long due to covid etc etc. I had already booked connecting flights and a hotel in Mexico so it was going to be costly if we had to change flights. Eventually it was resolved and Kathy is now booked to fly out to Mexico city on my birthday in September. And I get to fly to Mexico City on my birthday to meet her and help her navigate her way back to La Paz. I had a nice long chat with Neil, the Marina manager next. I explained I may be here until they find a vaccine, and was he ok for me to just roll on month by month, which he was. I also asked if he would keep my berth for me for August while I went exploring, at no cost to me, so I could slip back into it when I returned. He was happy to do that as well. Perfect, so that’s saved a few bob. Neil told me normally there would be a waiting list for my slip going into the end of summer/autumn but this year he had a few 45ft berths spare. He’s happy enough as the marina has about 70% permanent residents here, so his income isn’t destroyed like most of the hotels , restaurants, dive centre and tourist based operations. I called into the front office and cleared out with the ladies and got my port clearance, something needed now with Covid as I am only allowed to leave if I name the destination harbour. After Spanish, I started taking the canopies down and cleaned the fore and side decks before moving the dinghy off the dock and dropping it into its old favorite spot on the foredeck. Finally grabbed a beer from the fridge, slammed the front loading door shut as I always do and it bounced back at me, with the sound of metal landing on the cabin sole. I guessed I had broken the lock and started scrambling around the floor to see what I could find, which turned out to be the door latch , or half of it. The other half was bolter into the fridge frame. I was really tired and this was the last thing I needed, If I can’t close the fridge door, then all of our provisions for the forthcoming trip wouldn’t last long. I took the lock apart and examined it closely.
It’s a bronze bracket, that has snapped, I couldn’t see a quick fix, so instead went for the ‘smother it in epoxy’ approach and hope for the best. So I cleaned the surfaces up, mixed up some ’15 minute epoxy’ Mike from SV Ikigai had given me and left it overnight to set.
Saturday: I’m up early and the epoxied bracket seems quite strong, so I get to work fitting into the lock, It goes in well, and feels solid, but a few hours later it’s broken again. The fridge seems to be staying cold, so we will go with it for now and see where we get to. A quick breakfast and a call to Kathy, then Arturo is here at 9AM. We finish clearing out the quarter berth, and get him comfy in there. Then we head off to Chedraui to provision. It all goes well. A Taxi brings our shopping back to the boat, we load up, bring in the aircon from the coachroof, remove the last canopy, throw off the lines and reverse out. Arturo pushed me off, we had an ‘onshore’ or ‘on-Dock’ breeze and Arturo didn’t get a chance to push us far enough off, as I was keen to get him on the boat and so as we were just clearing the berth the wind blew us back for a small kiss of the pontoon bumpers. No big deal, other than the fact I didn’t look as cool as I would have liked. I considered explaining to Arturo that that was how you’re meant to leave, but thought better of it. We had a little run up and down the channel, We could make 6 knotts which isn’t too bad, but I think with new antifoul we could improve on that. We anchored in the bay, not far from the marina, sorted the boat out, fenders and mooring lines in etc, than jumped into a very fast flowing current to cool down. Later we will take the dinghy to the magote so Arturo can explore the little mangrove creeks. The mangroves were fun, but the outboard started to play up. I think I have dragged some dirt into the carb. Fortunately as we left the mangroves the tide was turning and the wind was strong from the south, so we were able to chug back very slowly to the boat making the most of tide & wind. Arturo remembers that he needs a few more bits from the supermarket, so we decide to stay at anchor for another day and go ashore in the morning, I can buy some fresh petrol (gasoline) in case that helps. I drained the can on the last top up and I think that may have been part of the problem, plus I bought this petrol a year ago and it does go stale.
Sunday: The temperature is so much nicer out here in the bay, and a lovely breeze has flown through most of the time. I sleep well, except for a recurring nightmare about not being able to conjugate the verb Decir correctly in pretérito, something I haven’t actually learnt yet, but the tutor in my dreams isn’t accepting that as an excuse. I can’t imagine how that has happened 😉 It’s cloudy, the batteries held up through the night, but at a lower voltage than I would like, so I don’t have enough power to make toast the Edison way, instead I burn some bread on the stove, but with some strong coffee it tastes great. After breakfast I pull the outboard into the cockpit, strip it down and replace the fuel filter and switch with the new one I bought. The new one is the wrong size and won’t quite fit. So I transplant the good bits I need from it onto the old switch and after clearing the carb, put the whole thing back together and cross my fingers. We launch the dinghy, strap on the motor, and It works great, then dies. Works great then dies, works great for quite a while then dies. After 15 minutes of running it’s good, but dies if I let it idle. I bet any amount of money, a real outboard engineer would know whats wrong in an instant. I need to learn how a carburettor works. We head into town and get the petrol and a bit of shopping then back to the boat and a bigger tidy up. Swimming, more jobs and then I remember that I have some metal bars in the lazarette, Arturo cleans some glue off the cockpit coaming while I find a 1″ wide bar of aluminium stock metal. It’s nothing like as thick or as strong as the bronze, but I cut a piece off, drill some holes and bend it into shape. It feels really strong and due to total luck, the forces on it won’t bend it out of shape.
It took about an hour to shape and fit but it works well. It was hot work, so another swim in the bay was called for.
Arturo has been relentless in pushing my Spanish vocabulary and grammar, At the shop, the petrol station and even on the beach at the fishermans hut, I was forced to make best friends with the people there. I’m not sure how he explained things to the checkout girl, but she looked at me and started a fit of laughter. I try to stay dignified throughout.
I as sit here typing up the blog, Arturo is below cooking his favorite Fish soup dinner for us. He is making about ten litres, so we should be good for fish soup for the foreseeable future. Later I am going to help him with his english translation, he’s reading some fairly mighty tomes in English and isn’t always sure of the meaning of phrases. Today I corrected him on his pronunciation of ‘Gave’ with a hard G, I always use more of a J sound. Talking to Kathy she was emphatic Arturo was right and it’s a hard ‘G’ , I’m still a little in shock about this and wonder if it might be a north /south thing, Barth/Baff etc. I’m learning a lot about the English language as a by-product of the exercise.
Tomorrow is Monday, the fuel dock will be open so as soon as we finish breakfast, it’s up anchor, fuel up and head north. We hope to anchor in Falso Bay, weather and the law permitting, and this will be our last stop with a cell phone connection for a few weeks. I’m hoping there will be a vaccine when we arrive and we will know if the aliens really did send coronavirus to us, or was that just some nutty theory only an idiot would fall for!